THE woman who choreo-graphed Sunshine On Leith is taking to the stage again to prove older female dancers can still perform well.

Rosie Kay, who has been compared to the legendary Isadora Duncan, told the Sunday National that dancing is a “terrible” profession for women as it is so difficult to return after having children.

Her return to the stage seven years after the birth of her son is her second comeback – the first followed a coercive relationship when she was a much younger dancer.

Now 45, her semi-autobiographical solo show touches on sexual abuse and sexual assault, as well as child birth and the injuries and “brutality” that dancers’ bodies sustain in order to perform.

“This is a body that is used to being looked at and being on stage but it is also a body that has gone through things that you would never know – when I dance it tells you more about the emotional world,” she said.

Kay, who was born in Chirnside in the Scottish Borders, has been dancing since she was three and started performing semi-professionally when she was 10-years-old. She trained at London Contemporary Dance School before joining the Polish Dance Theatre and has danced professionally in Poland, France, Germany and the US.

Now, 21 years on from her first-ever solo show Absolute Solo, which she performed in the 1999 Edinburgh Festival, she is again taking to the stage in Edinburgh with her new work, Absolute Solo II, created during the 2020 lockdown.

Partly autobiographical, part meditation on the need to dance, it uses ideas of performance, identity, sex, and gender to explore her renewed dancing spirit.

“I went back on stage once before after my son was born but I couldn’t handle not having the body I used to have,” said Kay. “I had an emergency C section and it was quite a traumatic birth. When I was on stage a bit of me was thinking it didn’t matter about my body but another bit couldn’t bear the fact that it didn’t bounce back to what it was.”

At that point, she was happy to focus on putting younger female dancers front of stage through her choreography where she established a solid reputation. Previous commissions include a dance for the Commonwealth Games handover ceremony in Birmingham which involved 700 young dancers and was viewed by millions of people.

However her desire to go back to the stage was reignited when she had to stand in for one of the dancers in her critically acclaimed work 5 Soldiers during a US tour just before the pandemic.

“One of my dancers had visa problems at Heathrow and wasn’t allowed to board so I was flying over the Atlantic with four dancers and a show called 5 Soldiers with a premiere 48 hours later and I realised I was going to have to go on stage,” said Kay.

Although the first night was a “bit traumatic” she learned that although she was around twice the age of the other dancers, her “grit” and experience more than made up for the gap.

The outbreak of the pandemic allowed the chance to retrain and think about what dancing meant to her.

“Growing up it was the place where I felt I could be expressive and be myself but when I was in my 20s I gave up for a while as I was in a coercive relationship, living in a foreign country with no friends and family around,” she said.

“It was a big decision to return to dancing then, and now, but the pandemic has allowed me the chance to think about my body and being on stage. The show contains bits of recorded text that tell stories about a life of performing and dance – it’s quite brutally honest,” said Kay.

Absolute Solo II is at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre on July 24.